Artists Marisabel Bazan and Lisa Schulte share their lives together in Los Angeles, so a venture to the their joint studio space gets you two visits for the price of one. But while they cohabit in one extraordinary place, their practices are very different.
Bazan is a muralist who got her start working as a street artist in Panama, and whose bold, expressionistic works can now be found around L.A., as well as in several international institutions. Her mural Dance of the Butterflies is a favorite spot for influencers to photograph in West Hollywood, but is also a touching point of connection for the community as it grapples with issues of mental health and metamorphosis.
Meanwhile, Schulte is a neon sculptor who grew up in Long Island, New York, working under the moniker “The Neon Queen.” She was first drawn to working with light following a childhood injury to her eye, which left her in darkness for several months as she recovered. Today, she is the founder of the neon studio space and boutique “Nights of Neon,” and owns one of the largest neon collections in the world.
Schulte is currently working on a new series of neons, and Bazan is working toward a solo show that will go on view at at the Mondrian in L.A. this June, as well as an upcoming sculpture exhibition at Civic Center Park.
We caught up with the artists about suffering loss during the pandemic and coming out of a rut, the very different vibes they work best in, and the studio task they most look forward to in a day.
What are the most indispensable items in your studio and why?
MB: For me, the most indispensable items in my studio are acrylic paint, spray paint, paint spatulas, water, my stencils, good light, and music. The materials because this helps me create the different layers in my work. The lighting and music sets the mood and the feeling to immerse myself in the artwork.
LS: The most indispensable items in my studio are fire, gas, and glass. You need all three to make a neon tube.
Is there a picture you can send of your work in progress?
MB: Yes, [above] is a photo of me in the studio preparing for my upcoming solo show at the Mondrian in Los Angeles this summer.
LS: My photo [below] showcases a panel from a triptych I am working on.
What is the studio task on your agenda tomorrow that you are most looking forward to?
MB: The task that I am most looking forward to in the studio tomorrow is progressing on this current body of work that I have been developing for my upcoming exhibition.
LS: Walking into my studio, in total darkness, flipping the master switch on and seeing all my neon sculptures light up is what I look forward to most. It gives me an incredible hit of energy and appreciation to start my day.
What kind of atmosphere do you prefer when you work? Do you listen to music or podcasts, or do you prefer silence? Why?
MB: I having loud music in the studio! I am constantly dancing and singing while I paint. It makes me feel like I am performing on a stage for an audience, which has always been a big part of who I am and I feel comes through in the work I create.
LS: I prefer silence so I can hear the sounds of my fires, which are very meditating and intoxicating.
What trait do you most admire in a work of art? What trait do you most despise?
MB: I admire color palettes and I love to see how passion comes through a piece of art. Large format artwork fascinates me and I admire the patience and time dedicated to the process of developing a piece. For me, laziness is disrespectful to your craft and purpose. I feel that would be the trait I like the least.
LS: I admire persistence, patience, passion, surprise, shape and texture, space and color. Most despised art trait would be being trendy and lazy.
What snack food could your studio not function without?
MB: Dried chile mango, chocolate, seaweed snacks, trail mix, and a variety of tea options.
LS: Potato chips, but most definitely coffee and water.
Who are your favorite artists, curators, or other thinkers to follow on social media right now?
MB: There are so many talented artists that I have discovered recently. To name a few, I am especially loving Heather Day, Okuda San Miguel, and Vivi Cuevas right now. For curator, Andi Campognone. She is such an advocate for our own community here in Los Angeles, especially in the city of Lancaster where she is the director of the Lancaster Museum of Art and History. She is constantly on the quest to make great things happen!
I have been really enjoying the live social media dialogue that has been happening through the pandemic. It’s inspiring to me to see other artists and entrepreneurs from all over the world discuss and talk through their process.
LS: Favorite curator would [also] be Andi Campognone. She really knows how to put together a great show of talented and interesting artists.
When you feel stuck in the studio, what do you do to get un-stuck?
MB: I dance and sing! I cleanse the space with sage or palo santo and reset the energy. If that doesn’t work, I go home to rest and start again the next day.
LS: That’s a hard question for me right now as I have definitely been stuck for the last 14 months with the pandemic and loss of freedom to come and go, as well as the loss of two brothers within a five-month span. I feel as though I am emerging out of my cave and starting to see the light for the first time in a while. I love to read and cook, which I think I pull a lot of inspiration from subconsciously and have found myself doing so much more now.
What is the last exhibition you saw (virtual or otherwise) that made an impression on you?
MB: The last exhibition that I saw was Heather Day at Diane Rosenstein Gallery in Los Angeles.
LS: Virtual exhibitions never really worked for me personally. I want to be face to face with a piece of art to appreciate it. The first show in person was only a few months ago and it was Heather Day and it was amazing!
If you had to put together a mood board, what would be on it right now?
MB: I’m in the midst of creating a new mood board at the studio so this question comes at the perfect time! I have a daily intention prayer that came to me listening to one of Oprah’s “Super Soul” podcast conversations, I have Yayoi Kusama’s artwork, I have a dream list of things that I would like to do, empowering words and visuals of things that I’m liking from architectural and interior design, colors, forms, products and of course, a picture of my angel dog Olivia.
LS: Lots of primary colors and shapes as they represent body, emotion, mind, and harmony which I feel really balances me out right now.